Middle child, born and bred, my DNA has directed, no, better said; my DNA has dictated my lifelong passion for peace-making.
Having grown up in a cacophonous household, ripe with arguments, petty and small, I would try to negotiate family conflicts. As an act of self-preservation mostly, I was a kid, after all.
Like a United Nations foreign language interpreter, I tried to translate for both sides of the opposing parties:
Maureeen/Tim/Joani/Bernie/Clare/Joseph is not upset because you wanted to borrow their toothbrush/toys/clothes/gadgets. S/he’s upset because you didn’t ask. Maureen/Tim/Joani/Bernie/Clare/Joseph is upset because you didn’t say ‘please’.
And pretty-please, I would pray, that this little conflict would go away.
It is no wonder, that when I grew up, I found a “middle way”, my spiritual home in the Episcopal Church.
The Middle Way, the Via Media, is not the mushy meaningless way. It is not the path of least resistance. It is the uniquely Anglican tradition that affirms both our catholic roots and our commitment to reform. Standing on the shoulders of saints, we look to the past for guidance and to the future with hope.
The Episcopal tradition bridges many a divide. Recognizing our neighbors, to our left and to our right, we worship together in the pews. And during these times that so try our Christian souls (to borrow a phrase from Thomas Paine), Anglicanism embraces myriad ways to be faithful.
Remember the late Rodney King’s 1992 rallying cry? In the aftermath of the LA riots, sparked by his own racially charged and violent arrest, he implored the crowds:
“People, I just want to say to you, can we all just get along…I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it.”
To work our conflict out, not to ignore it. Though many of us, myself included, would prefer for all this contentionness to just melt away.
But, we can work it out (to borrow a lyric from the Beatles!) The Book of Common Prayer invites us to do the same. On page 304, the Baptismal Covenant draws a map of the Middle Way.
“Will you seek and serve all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”
“I will, with God’s help.”
“Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”
“I will, with God’s help.”
Way easier said than done! How can we “walk this talk” in an everyday way? How can we translate these churchy words into a conversation at our kitchen tables?
Well, a Dutch startup has devised one creative way. Not a religious resource, but a human one, the company has come up with a very good idea.
And just in time for the holidays, which will be here before we know it. Lots of in-laws and outlaws coming into town! Loved ones we disagree with and who disagree with us!
Small talk can only get us so far, as we dance around our differences. Gingerly, we try to avoid the pitfalls and stepping on landmines, right? How do we start a conversation, and not a fight?
Well, you can play Vertellis’ game: Tell Me More.There are multiple versions, for relationships, families, coworkers. And now, there is a holiday edition!
A step above Trivial Pursuit, the game “involves thought-provoking questions that invite everyone to share fun memories, inspiring goals, and meaningful stories. It results in deeper conversation that makes everyone feel more connected. It draws people closer.”
In a no-phone-zone, you can “drop the rocks” and listen to everyone around the table in a more open-hearted way. Conversation is a key, science tells us, to the “happiness factor.” We humans are highly social creatures, after all, seeking meaning wherever we go.
Who wouldn’t want to create a little order out of Thanksgiving or Christmas chaos? Who wouldn’t want a little help to build a few bridges between young and old, right brain and left brain, traditionalist and trailblazer, introvert and extrovert, vegan and carnivore, Republican and Democrat.
So, I invite us all, Anglican or not, to walk this Middle Way, to seek and to serve and to listen to all the crazy people around our holiday tables. Praying that no matter how annoying, we may cherish them, as much as, we cherish our self-righteous selves!
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